Christmas Eve (December 24)

134746__nativity_l

For many Canadians and for millions of people around the world, Christmas is a secular holiday.  It is not a religious holy day, rather it is a cultural event based on things such as family, gift giving and charity.  For many Christmas is focused on children and the central figure is Santa.

Yet for many millions of of other people in Canada and around the world, Christmas Eve is a deeply significant night of the year in spiritual terms.  Christmas emerged as the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Whether in churches or other places of worship, or at home, or in other locations, Christians gather together celebrate the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.

Check out some of these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days.”

Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1)


source: CC BY-NC 2.0 Reginald James/TheBlackHour.com

From the Official Kwanzaa Website:

“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”

Find out more:

And check out these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days” :

Winter Solstice

Why are there so many Holidays and Holy Days at this time of year? Why do so many of them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, seem to emphasize light, especially light in contrast to the darkness? Likely this is because of the Winter Solstice.

Stonehenge, a Celtic monument built for the Solstices, perhaps as much as 5000 years ago.
source: wikimedia commons/Mark Grant/(CC BY 2.5)

The longest night of the year. The shortest day. The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 (in some years December 22) as the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. The North Pole will experience continuous darkness, the Polar region near total darkness, and the northern hemisphere its shortest day and longest night. Winter begins. Most populations will experience the darkest and coldest time of year.

It is a time where people crave light and warmth, and so it seems natural that the feasts and festivals of December emphasize those things. Moreover, at the darkest moment, hope is renewed, as after the solstice the days will get longer. This is hope for more light, more warmth. Spring will come eventually. New birth. New life.

And so many different observances, feasts, and festivals emereged at this time of the year, many on the day of the Solstice, and others near to it on the calendar.

  • Yule: Celtic Europe, Scandinavia and Germanic peoples.
  • Alban Arthan: Wales
  • Modranhit: Anglo-Saxon Europe
  • Korochun: Slavic Eastern Europe
  • Shalako, Soyal :Native American peoples
  • Yalda: Iran/Persians
  • Dongzhi: China & East Asia
  • Lohri & Maghi: India, especially the Punjab
  • Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Brumalia & Saturnalia: Ancient Rome

Of course, we have spent the last few weeks observing the many holidays and holy days of this time of year. It is not a coincidence that celebrations such as Christmas and New Year have grown to be huge events in the western world, and by extension other cultures, as the west has extended its influence around the globe. In places where modern conveniences such as lighting and heating offset the effect of the cold and dark of December, we might overlook how important it was for our ancestors to hope for the seeming death of one year to turn into the life of a new year, and to celebrate such rebirth.

Find out more:



Christmas Eve (December 24)

134746__nativity_l

For many Canadians and for millions of people around the world, Christmas is a secular holiday.  It is not a religious holy day, rather it is a cultural event based on things such as family, gift giving and charity.  For many Christmas is focused on children and the central figure is Santa.

Yet for many millions of of other people in Canada and around the world, Christmas Eve is a deeply significant night of the year in spiritual terms.  Christmas emerged as the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Whether in churches or other places of worship, or at home, or in other locations, Christians gather together celebrate the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.

Check out some of these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days.”

Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1)

 

source: Official Kwanzaa Website

From the Official Kwanzaa Website:

“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”

Find out more:

And check out these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days” :

 

 

The Winter Solstice and Yule (December 21)

source: Wikimedia Commons / CC

The days of Fall grow shorter and shorter, and in the Northern Hemisphere the month of December is dark and cold. The low point is the Winter Solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year.

In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented the battle between darkness and light, between life and death.  Death and darkness seem to be winning through this season. On the Solstice, the dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. The darkness gives way to light, and death gives way to life. Hope is restored.

Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme.  Yule was celebrated by many peoples of northern pre-Christian Europe, including the Celts, and such Germanic groups as the Angles, Saxons, Danes and Norse.  Like many of the pagan holidays, Yule was adapted by Christian Europe and incorporated into Christmas traditions. However, followers of neopagan religions, such as Wicca, have re-established Yule as a distinct celebration.

Find out more:

For more on this and other winter observances and feasts, check out our display, “Holidays and Holy Days,” and books such as:

Christmas Eve (December 24)

134746__nativity_l

For many Canadians and for millions of people around the world, Christmas is a secular holiday.  It is not a religious holy day, rather it is a cultural event based on things such as family, gift giving and charity.  For many Christmas is focused on children and the central figure is Santa.

Yet for many millions of of other people in Canada and around the world, Christmas Eve is a deeply significant night of the year in spiritual terms.  Christmas emerged as the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Whether in churches or other places of worship, or at home, or in other locations, Christians gather together celebrate the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.

Check out some of these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days.”

Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1)

 

source: Official Kwanzaa Website

From the Official Kwanzaa Website:

“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”

Find out more:

And check out these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days” :

 

 

The Winter Solstice and Yule (December 21)

source: Wikimedia Commons / CC

The days of Fall grow shorter and shorter, and in the Northern Hemisphere the month of December is dark and cold. The low point is the Winter Solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year.

In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented the battle between darkness and light, between life and death.  Death and darkness seem to be winning through this season. On the Solstice, the dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. The darkness gives way to light, and death gives way to life. Hope is restored.

Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme.  Yule was celebrated by many of the Germanic peoples of northern pre-Christian Europe, including such groups as the Angles, Saxons, Danes and Norse.  Like many of the pagan holidays, Yule was adapted by Christian Europe and incorporated into Christmas traditions. However, followers of neopagan religions, such as Wicca, have re-established Yule as a distinct celebration.

Find out more:

For more on this and other winter observances and feasts, check out our display, “Holidays and Holy Days,” and books such as: